Using a professional pet sitter for parakeets

Regular readers know that over the winter I researched local pet sitting services, interviewed a sitter and hired her for our summer vacation. I had a great feeling about her at the time, but leading up to our trip I got increasingly anxious about leaving Toby and Kelly with someone totally untested. It didn’t help that I kept seeing horror stories of people leaving their parakeets in the care of close family members and coming back from weeklong trips to find them near death or worse.

I worked myself into a pretty good state over the whole thing. Particularly after all the chaos of them staying at my mom’s for a few days and then having to separate Toby and Kelly into two cages after their bad fight that left Kelly with a bloody foot. I updated the pet sitter that they shouldn’t be out at the same time – to me, this stacked the deck even further against her. How would a woman who had limited experience with birds in the first place handle letting them out one at a time and getting them back into their proper cages?

It got to a point that I think I would have canceled the whole trip if I’d had the foresight to purchase travel insurance! No such coverage existed and off we went, but only after I harassed the pet sitter several times in the week leading up to vacation to confirm all the details. I even made an agreement with a colleague that she would get into my house somehow if I couldn’t verify that the sitter was taking care of the parakeets.

The first day of vacation I checked on the parakeets several times using my Misafes security camera, they were fine all day of course but I only made it until about 4pm before breaking down and asking the pet sitter how it went via text. She related that they had both had some time out of the cage, Kelly was very easy to get back in, and Toby was harder but very sweet and sat on her shoulder.

Huge sigh of relief, the details were precisely what I would have expected from my girls and it made me feel relieved that the pet sitter had actually been there and that the parakeets were being taken well care of, not just having food and water changed and being ignored.

I didn’t text the pet sitter every day after that (just a few more haha), but I did spy her a couple of times on the Misafes security camera. I never watched long because that would seem a bit creepy to me, but every time I saw her she was taking care of the parakeets and seemed totally engaged in what was going on with them.

The trust that she was building with me helped me enjoy the rest of our vacation with only minimal concerns about the parakeets physical and mental well-being, but on the flight home everything started creeping back in. I wondered what condition I would find the cages in, whether the parakeet’s perches would be covered in poop, or if our Bird Cage Liners had been removed every couple of days.

We opened the front door and what I saw absolutely astonished me. Not only were the cages scrupulously clean, as though I had been at home the whole time following my cleaning schedule, but she left a detailed checklist showing what maintenance had been done each day, and the coup de grâce was a short note written every single day with any notable information about how they had behaved and/or particularly adorable moments.

Now, given the choice between the two I would still love to have the pet sitting service my mom typically provides, not only does she spend hours of time at my house waiting for the parakeets to tire out but she’s also an extremely economical choice (read: free). For the times I can’t “hire” my mom, hiring the professional pet sitter was the best decision I ever made and I would strongly encourage anyone to do their research and utilize a professional pet sitting service over leaving the care of your parakeets to neighbors, friends, or in some cases, even relatives.

And, not to be totally grim, but if something had gone terribly wrong it’s much more comfortable to be devastated by something a professional did and be able to file a complaint and never utilize their services again, instead of having to see the person who you blame for the death of your birds every year at Thanksgiving.

Cleaning up after budgies – tips to make every day easier

Even just a couple of budgies can make a pretty big mess!  Here’s the schedule I follow so it never gets out of hand and I only spend a small amount of time on a daily basis.

Daily:
AM
– refresh water and food bowls, if any of them are contaminated with poop change out for fresh bowls.

PM
– Wipe down cage bars with a damp paper towel anywhere there is visible poop or any other mess
– Wipe down dirty looking perches and toys
– Freshen water and check to see if food bowls are free of poop
– Remove top sheet of Bird Cage Liners from cage tray and give the poops a once-over to check for any health issues
vacuum (more than once per day during molting)
Feed a fruit or veggie snack and clean up after that as well
– Hunt for floor poops and clean up as needed.

Weekly (usually on a Saturday or Sunday):
– Remove perches and scrub with a tiny bit of mild dish soap and hot water using a Hard and Soft Side Vegetable Brush.  This tool is perfect for getting poop out of the crevices of a cement or natural perch.  Of course it should be kept well-separate from a veggie scrubber that’s used for human or budgie vegetables!
– Remove and wipe down toys, and examine for any loose threads or other ways that the parakeets could get caught or otherwise injure themselves. Rotate or retire toys as needed for mental stimulation.
– Wash all bowls and Lixit Bird Waterers  with hot water and mild dish soap
– Wipe down all cage bars
– Provide parakeets with a couple of bathing options, hanging bath, and Tupperware bath, for instance. Clean up water mess afterwards.
– Wipe down play gyms and window perches

As needed
– Remove all toys and perches from cage and thoroughly hose down cage.  Use scrubber to remove poop from all cage crevices.

Additionally, if you have a grate on the floor of your cage I recommend wiping that down every other day at least and taking it out for a complete cleaning weekly.  I took mine out to increase the usable cage space for our parakeet and also to encourage foraging behavior, but a great side effect was much easier clean-up for me.

It looks like quite a lot laid out that way, but I never feel overwhelmed by a mess or by the amount of work I have to do to keep up after the budgies.  Mine are very territorial, so I usually try to wipe everything down as soon as I let them out in the afternoon.  That way they are enjoying flying around and exercising while I’m hastily tidying their cage and not getting my hands bit!

Let me know if I missed any critical steps!

A tale of three vacuums – one of the most important items in the war against parakeet mess

Parrot ownership, even with smaller birds like budgies, can be quite messy. They love to throw seeds and hulls all over the place, as well as feathers, pieces of toys, anything they can shred…essentially anything a bird can be messy with, it will be quite delighted to do so. One of Toby and Kelly’s favorite pastimes is to throw whatever they can lift and then watch it fall.

To deal with the resulting mess we deploy an army of 3 vacuums, each with a specific purpose.

iRobot Roomba 650 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner:
Roomba goes out every weekday between 2pm and 3pm and vacuums as much of the house as it can before going back to base. What’s great about this is it means we don’t need to vacuum the entire house every day, and since it’s scheduled for mid-afternoon, we humans don’t have to listen to it work. The downside is that it can’t go where the cages are because there’s a small step up between hard wood and tile floors. Even if it could get up there is wouldn’t work out, I tried Roomba in their area once and the vacuum hit the cage so hard that it moved. There’s no way I would subject the parakeets to that every day! It does drive a foot or two away from their cage and they hustle over to the side and yell at it until it goes away, which is cute, and also a nice common enemy for them to bond over. Although it can’t get under their cage Roomba takes the edge off of our duties as budgie mess does not tend to stay in one spot. Even on days where they haven’t been out yet I’ll come home to find feathers in the bedrooms.

The iRobot Roomba 650 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner does take some care to maintain, we’ve had ours for many years, you’ll need to invest in replacement parts, like brushes and filters, and you do have to clean it weekly at a minimum. I believe we’ve even had to replace the motor on ours. It can also be annoying, if you’ve left any doors ajar it will trap itself and just keep going for hours/until the battery runs out. It’s also not very smart and might go vacuum the same room every day for a week straight.

Even considering the downsides, I think Roomba is a valuable addition to our arsenal.

Shark Rocket Ultra-Light Upright (HV302):
A few days into having Toby with us we realized we needed to have a dedicated bird vacuum that we could use conveniently every day in the cage area and kitchen. It had to be lightweight and easy to store but have really good suction and capacity. We started out with a dust buster but that wasn’t really cutting it for getting into crevices and all the way under the cage, and it stopped holding a charge after just a month or so. I have a feeling it just wasn’t up to the herculean task of cleaning up after birds.

We ended up purchasing the Shark Rocket Ultra-Light Upright (HV302) and it is fantastic. It’s corded, which I thought would annoy me at first, but we just keep it tucked out-of-the-way behind a door and it stretches where it needs to go. The attachments are awesome for getting under the radiators and it picks up everything as it should. It’s bagless and the canister is see-through. I find that we can go a couple of weeks without emptying.

We run this every day in the dining area where the cage it and usually extend into the kitchen as well as the hallway next to the cage. It only takes a few minutes a day but makes a huge difference between relatively clean floors versus tracking seeds and feathers everywhere.

Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away (NV501):
This vacuum is the big gun. It has an array of attachments, including an upholstery tool that will pull any tiny speck of dirt out of your couch. The canister pops off the base so it can be carried easily around the house and the smaller head attachment is good for both hard surface floors and carpets. Against with a clear cylinder canister it’s easy to tell when you need to empty and so satisfying to watch it fill up.

Unlike our daily vacuums, this guy only comes out on the weekends when we clean house, it is extremely thorough and powerful and easy to maintain.

Recently I dropped about 5 pounds of seed and pellets on our kitchen floor and after salvaging what I could we vacuumed up the rest, the Shark made quick work of it and probably would have been happy to chow down on the full amount.

The shark also does a great job during heavy molting times and has really good suction for getting tiny feathers from under tables, chairs, couches and oh just everywhere (since everywhere is where they are!).

Depending on your needs you can’t go wrong with any of these vacuums; I think all three are a great system to keep parakeet (and everyday human) mess under control.

One big note about safety, please don’t ever vacuum with your budgies out of the cage. I saw a terrible story once about a parakeet that got sucked up in a vacuum, thankfully it survived with medical intervention but hat’s a vet bill that’s pretty easily avoided by keeping birds at home when vacuums are out. I’m going to assume that most parakeets are not huge fans of the vacuum anyway and probably feel safer in their cages instead of battling the great noisy beast!